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Mt. Diablo teachers’ union reaches tentative agreement

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, March 11th, 2011 at 9:49 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

If Mt. Diablo district teachers approve a tentative agreement hammered out Friday, students will lose three days of classes by the end of this school year.

That’s because the Mt. Diablo Education Association has struck a deal with the district to accept three furlough days, while maintaining elementary library, vocal music and PE prep periods the district wanted to eliminate.

“We have a one-year contract from last July to the end of June, because we’re still without a contract this year,” union president Mike Langley told me today.

Teachers and the district still need to decide which days to take, but the pay cuts will be deducted one day a month in April, May and June, Langley said.

Besides the furlough days, the proposed contract also includes several smaller items:

– A new form will be developed to ensure that class sizes that are too large at the beginning of the semester will be addressed by the district, instead of the school, after 19 student days;

– Minor language changes related to job-sharing, to be more aligned with Education Code;

– A new peer review system that would require some teachers on special assignment, such as math and literacy coaches, to go through the same panel that Peer Assistance Review coaches go through to be placed in a “pool” that principals can select from. The panel includes four administrators and four union members.

“They can now make sure that well-qualified and appropriate people are placed in this pool for our teachers on special assignment,” Langley said.

– Fifth-grade teachers who opt not to accompany their classes to Outdoor Education camp would substitute in appropriate classes at their own schools.

– Three “discretionary” days off could be used for personal leave, with no explanation necessary.

– Summer school teachers would be laid-off according to seniority and credential if they are not needed.

The union plans to hold meetings to inform members about the deal and answer questions. The meetings will be held Wednesday, March 16 and Tuesday, March 22, Langley said.

In 2011-12, the agreement would also delay until later in the year two of teachers’ three “staff days,” which normally provide professional development in August. This would provide flexibility for up to seven future furlough days, Langley said (five school days and two “staff days”).

“Every other thing is status quo,” Langley said, “which means it continues on next year.”

Although Julie Braun-Martin said in an e-mail that the district would send out eight pink slips to librarians, Langley said the number was seven. He also said five music teachers would receive pink slips, including one instrumental music teacher and four vocal music teachers.

In all, 82 teachers and credentialed staff covered by the union will get preliminary lay-off notices, Langley said. Administrators and some adult education teachers are not members of the union.

“We were very concerned about some of the things we were going to leave as status quo, but we felt there were such differences that negotiations were going to drag on and our ability to contribute to helping the district’s fiscal situation lessened each week that negotiations were stalled,” he said. “So, we chose to accept status quo for this contract so we could give up three pay cut days and allow the district to move forward on their search for fiscal stability.”

The main “status quo” item the union objects to is meeting time after school, he said. The union wants to cap the amount of time teachers can be required to attend such meetings and specify a definite “end of the work day” time, beyond which teachers would get extra pay.

“We know that their books have a structural deficit as well as the threat of more cuts from the state,” Langley said. “So, rather than lose the opportunity, our members are willing to make the sacrifice and start getting back to some real negotiations in September.”

The district’s willingness to give up the elementary prep periods will mean it will have to remove those items from its budget cut list, if the union and board approve the contract. These changes haven’t been made for Tuesday’s meeting.

In addition, some new ideas suggested by trustees don’t appear on the revised cut list.

“Gary (Eberhart) talked about maybe looking at areas like testing,” Langley said. “I think he was delineating: ‘Is that something we really need or that we want?’ Because when you’re talking about giving up days — time of instruction for kids — everything that they’re keeping and paying for should be measured against that standard: ‘Is this more important than a day of instruction?’ I think Mr. Eberhart was wondering if unmandated testing was more important than a day of instruction.”

Langley said campus safety is another important concern, when making budget-cutting decisions.

“Sometimes the district administration and the school board don’t fully understand the impact of some of the things they’re asking for,” he said. “And we will try to continue to communicate that to them as they continue to communicate to us their wants and needs.”

Do you support the proposed contract?

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67 Responses to “Mt. Diablo teachers’ union reaches tentative agreement”

  1. vindex Says:

    not a bad contract. It seems in-between.. which it means it is probably a good contract

  2. Jackie Says:

    As a teacher in Mt. Diablo I can accept this agreement. The furlough days seemed inevitable, and the fewer days we have mean the more that students can receive instruction, which is the most important thing. Gary Eberhart does not seemed informed when he suggests giving up assessments. Education has moved forward in the last few years in the area of data analysis to enable teachers to tailor the instruction to meet student needs. To give up this valuable information is to take a giant step backwards.

  3. mdusd teacher Says:

    Most teachers I know have been ready and willing to give furlough days (pay cuts) to help this dire situation since September. The union, from my knowledge, has always wanted to get the furlough days done. It is the district’s bargaining team that was keeping other concessions on the table, which wouldn’t allow an agreement. This district has enjoyed not having to pay health benefits for the majority of their work force (teachers) for over 10 years. Other districts pay that for their teachers. I might add that this district squandered all that money. The kids didn’t see much of it, it was spent at the admin office with all the layers of staff, like the “Supt. Cabinet” etc. The district needs to do their part now. Get rid of SASS and uneccessary testing. I’m glad to see the new faces on the School Board who seem to have the students first and formost in mind when they make decisions. Kudos to them for not being intimidated by other board members or the status quo of Admin staff. You can tell that Cheryl Hansen is not going to allow them to blindly lead her.

  4. Susan Townsend Says:

    Mount Diablo teachers please vote NO on the tentative agreement for a 3 day pay cut this school year. Teachers in Mount Diablo do not even have medical insurance and have not for 10 years. The district has saved millions on the backs of the lowest paid teachers in the state. Administrators and classified staff enjoy health insurance benefits, but teachers don’t! Take a look at the number of administrators, lawyers, and consultants MDUSD employs. MDUSD is top heavy and even the lowest paid administrator earns twice the amount of a teacher. Middle schools have 3 assistant principals and a principal! I say Chop from the Top this time. Do not give in and give up the 3 days. Stand strong teachers. The community is behind you.

  5. Poseidon Says:

    With all that’s being asked of teachers and site administrators, the extraneous testing is really ridiculous. We need to stop telling teachers to teach to the tests and allow teachers to provide instruction based on their education and experience. There are elementary students that are so young that they can’t even properly bubble in the tests and the district has to hire clerical to bubble in the tests for the students. How stupid is that? There needs to be more common sense involved in the education of our students. Whether it saves money or not, extra tests need to stop.

  6. Sam Gold Says:

    The district doesn’t hire clerical to bubble those tests. The teachers at my site give up their prep time to bubble them.

  7. Anon Says:

    Susan Townsend –

    MDUSD teachers used to have medical insurance. It was the teachers and the teachers union who voted to not have medical coverage and take increased salaries instead. Now you are complaining? And you want to keep the higher salary *and* have full medical coverage returned? How greedy is that — and how unfair that you are characterizing it as a district action when it was, in fact, the teachers who voted for no medical coverage.

  8. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Walnut Creek school district teachers are getting 3 percent raises, plus a small increase in the district’s payment toward health benefits:
    There seems to be a huge disparity between schools in terms of how test “bubbling” is handled. Some schools use Title 1, SIG grants or PTA funds to pay for clerical help to do it. Some assign the school’s clerical staff to do it. Some require teachers to do it. And some parent volunteers do it. Isn’t prep time supposed to be used for lesson planning? Do you think using prep time to bubble test forms is a good use of teacher time?

  9. Bryan Says:

    I am a high school teacher. I will not approve this contract. This agreement is horrible. Furlough days the last three paychecks of the year, and I got a pink slip.

  10. Long-time Board Watcher Says:

    In the last teachers’ contract settlement (perhaps 2-1/2 years ago) medical benefits were restored for those who enrolled in one of the district’s plans. The district contribution does have a cap (employee only?), but the opportunity to have a district-provided medical plan is available. Also, teachers never lost/gave up district-provided vision and dental coverage.

    The argument that there is a huge gap between teachers’ and administrators’ salaries has become more urban myth than reality. Some veteran teachers (who receive stipends for extra duties, such as serving as department chair) earn as much, some even more, than some young vice principals, counselors and other school administrators. By contract administrators work a longer year than teachers, though furlough days that began for all district managers last year have shorted their year and reduced their pay. Based on the budget reduction decisions over the past several years, I would guess that the managers’ unit has lost a higher percentage of positions in MDUSD than the teachers’ unit.

    Questions for Theresa: your article says “the teachers and the union need to decide which (furlough) days to take.” Will this decision not be made in collaboration with district management? A furlough day is one all teachers would take at the same time, right? So schools would be closed and there would be no need for substitutes? Aren’t there a couple of teacher work days still left, so instructional days would not have to be lost?

  11. Bryan Says:

    I think a lot of teachers would like to do away with the union personally. New teachers get zero benefit from the union and still have to pay a grand a year for the honor.

  12. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Longtime board watcher: You’re right that the teachers would all take the same day. I corrected that above. I meant the teachers and the DISTRICT need to decide.
    Langley said there are no teacher “work days” left, so all three days would be days of instruction.
    This is why the union has agreed to postpone two of its three “work days” next year, so they may be able to bargain them away as furlough days and not impact students.

  13. Sue Berg Says:

    Theresa, does Walnut Creek Elementary School District have a parcel tax? If so, perhaps that’s why it has some funds for a salary increase. If so, it points out a funding discrepancy that’s becoming increasingly pronounced: the level of local support for schools.

    Communities that have established a parcel tax as a source of local revenue for General Fund purposes seem to have relatively fewer budget constraints. Once established, the tax is typically renewed and even increased periodically. As a Lafayette homeowner, I pay a $332. parcel tax for the Lafayette Elementary School District and another $301. parcel tax to the Acalanes High School District. In May the elementary district is asking us voters to approve an additional $176. parcel tax. I expect it to pass, bringing my annual contribution to K-12 schools in my community to $779. in parcel taxes. Assessments to fund four school bonds add to that amount.

    I’m sorry the parcel tax that MDUSD put on the 2009 ballot did not pass. I’m sorry the district leadership did not build on the energy and enthusiasm the campaign generated to try again for that kind of funding.

    Despite what some critics seem to believe, I know from my work there that Mt. Diablo staff, in all areas, do great work and the students are receiving good and effective instruction and other services. Its employees and students deserve local funding for these purposes as much as the ones in the districts serving my community.

  14. 4Students Says:

    The WCSD is notable for spending 71% of budget in classrooms. Their superintendent attributes this to a conservative board. Their board members schedule inspections at each school site every year. Their web site home shows photos of a board member, police officer and City Council members reading to children. Their parcel tax is only $82 per year, and seniors are exempt.

  15. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The Walnut Creek school district also has a strategic plan is holds “Budget 101” sessions with its community.

  16. Sue Berg Says:

    My point was that MDUSD is a good district whose students and staff deserve local support as neighboring districts do.

    The data you cite to show Walnut Creek in a positive light can be applied to Mt. Diablo. For example, the 71% dedicated to the classroom must include teacher and classroom assistant salaries. MDUSD spends 80% of its budget (restricted and unrestricted) on certificated salaries; most of that is for classroom teachers. Classroom assistant salaries are in addition to the 80%. Board member Linda Mayo has visited schools every Friday throughout her tenure, typically accompanied by an assistant superintendent. Board members, district administrators, city officials, and many other individuals visit classrooms and read to children, some as often as once a week.

    MDUSD’s Measure D parcel tax was for $99 per year and was expected to raise $7 million annually. Seniors were to be exempt. They are exempt from the Lafayette parcel taxes as well. Though I am one myself, I choose to pay.

  17. Doctor J Says:

    Why does Linda Mayo have to take up the valuable time of an Assistant Supt to visit the schools — she has been on the Board for 14 years. One would think she could do the tours in her sleep. I am not critical of her visiting the schools — indeed if she has time, that is wonderful. Couldn’t the Principal show her around ?

  18. Jackie Says:

    Where are you people getting the idea that the testing is unnecessary? We are not testing for fun, we are testing to help us plan our instruction. The whole bubbling debate is ridiculous, 1st and 2nd grade teachers have to bubble- at my site they have been doing it for a few years, but then some sites refused to do it so they got extra help. And if anyone else says we are teaching to the test I think I will scream- tests are standards based, we are teaching to the standards- see the difference?
    Why shouldn’t Rose Locke accompany a board member on a visit, it is good to see Rose visiting our classrooms whenever she wants to come out. I doubt if Linda Mayo insisted Rose come with her, it is a good opportunity for both of them. I am happy that they are concerned enough to come to my site.

  19. Doctor J Says:

    Come on Jackie, you don’t need an Asst Supt who doesn’t have enough time to do her job take up two hours a week accompanying an experienced Board member on a school visit. That’s two hours she could be doing productive work.
    Point two: if you are teaching to the standards, why are you still trying to decide what the essential standards are ? Shouldn’t that have been figured out several years ago — or are the essential standards just a code word for “what is on the test” ?

  20. Sue Berg Says:

    Doctor J,
    First of all, I don’t think the assistant superintendent accompanies Mrs. Mayo; I believe it’s the other way around. When I worked in the Dent Center the associate and the assistant superintendents routinely visited schools, observing, offering assistance, and meeting with the site principals they supervised and evaluated. Mrs. Mayo has made time on Fridays to go along on those visits.

    Your logic befuddles me. You seem to be saying that district office administrators should remain in the Dent Center “doing productive work.” So their going out to schools and classrooms to observe the instruction and talk to the people who are working directly with children is not a productive use of their time? I think a lot of people at the school sites would disagree with you.

  21. Doctor J Says:

    @Sue, Linda is escorted by Rose — when Linda can’t go, Rose doesn’t go — it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out. Linda doesn’t work for Rose — Rose works for Linda. Linda voted to extend Rose’s contract. Lawrence wants an administrator with a Board member every time they visit a school — you know the whole spy thing. Rose has a whole department, with one person assigned to every school to visit the schools. As for what Rose ought to be doing. For example, for a whole month after the Board votes to close the schools, there is nothing forthcoming from Dent. Then Cheryl sends in an agenda item calling for a comprensive closure plan for the two schools, and suddenly at the Board meeting a hastily drawn “timetable” with no real plans attached to it prepared by Rose appears out of no where, and clearly none of the Board members had seen it. What had she been doing for a month ? Oh, yeah, I forgot –that little trip to Monterey for the Asilomar conference. Still waiting to see her notes from the panel of successful Superintendents on how to turn around failing school districts. I don’t think we will see it — MDUSD isn’t doing any of them. Meanwhile SASS is growing and spending money like a drunken sailor — more employees than C&I, plus two consultants for $183,000. Hiring clerical to “bubble”, paying tens of thousands for substitute teachers — we’ll see the Board reaction on Tuesday when they propose to hire another full time employee. We will find out if Gary was serious in cutting SASS or if it just was a window dressing ruse.

  22. Susan Townsend Says:

    Anon, the teachers voted to accept pay in lieu of medical benefits ten years ago and the district cheated them by never paying them anywhere near the value of the medical benefits they sacrificed. You can’t deny that MDUSD saved significantly from this move (teachers could never have predicted that medical costs would spiral out of control). MDUSD has always been fully aware of the financial burden this move placed on teachers to cover these costs out of pocket. The increase in salary couldn’t cover 10% of the cost and even considering the miniscule gain, MDUSD are still at the bottom when comparing total compensation packages. The fact that MDUSD is still not even talking about cutting testing, yet expects teachers to take another hit shows how bullish they really are. MDUSD wants teachers to sign a blank check with this TA, then they will be forced to work up to 500 additional free hours per school year. Hidden agenda, hope teachers read the print before voting. VOTE NO! Why should teachers make more concessions when nothing is being trimmed off administration? What about the children? Nobody seems to care that they will lose 3 instructional days and teachers will not be paid to set rooms up for school next year (another freebie expected).

  23. Michael Says:

    I don’t want to get rid of my union. I think a teacher would have to be a fool to want to get rid of it. I would like it to hold more streamlined meetings, but it is a true benefit. If we want to join the race to the bottom, we can all turn into dumpsters like Wisconsin and turn middle class against middle class while the rich continue to get richer. Interesting that Walnut Creek is getting a 3% raise. Why do you thing that is so?

  24. charter new course Says:

    @Sue –
    The Pepperdine report says WCSD spends 71% in classrooms, and MDUSD spends 64%. In MDUSD “teacher sal. & ben. as a % of total operating expenditure” declined from 54% in 2004 to 50% in 2009. In WCSD it increased during the same period from 55% to 58%. WCSD average teacher salary was higher than MDUSD, even before their newly announced pay raise.

    My family has children in MDUSD for 13 years, we’ve volunteered at the schools, attended PTA meetings, and can’t remember seeing any board member or Dent Center administrator visiting classrooms. In WCSD they put board visits on the district calendar, and board members often attend PTA meetings. In WCSD they placed photos of students and classrooms on their web page. Your Lafayette School District web page also has many student photos. In MDUSD there is one photo of children on the district web page which has no caption to show those actually are MDUSD students using the laptop. My MDUSD students don’t have a laptop.

    Regrettably your view is from the Dent Center and from Lafayette, and not here in our community. Of course MDUSD parents support our students, teachers and school staff. Those of us in the trenches do not see that Dent Center is doing that! The County Board of Education granted the Flex Academy charter and said MDUSD is not providing a good education. Our friends are moving away or applying to private schools, and charter schools are becoming a necessity.

  25. Jim Says:

    One question regarding pink slips: MDUSD is obligated to provide notice to teachers in March if they are at risk for being laid off for the following school year. When do the teachers who do not get pink slips have to commit to returning in the fall? Do they have to sign some binding agreement in March? I know that in some districts around the country teachers can wait until the first work day in the fall to give notice. Obviously, it would be more symmetrical, and make personnel planning easier for a district, if they didn’t have as many last-minute vacancies in the fall. Does anyone know what the requirements are for teachers in MDUSD to commit to returning for the following year?

  26. Wait a Minute Says:

    @ Dr. J #21.

    So just to prove how broke they are they are want to hire another full-time employee for the Dent Center!

    This is a classic move by a bureaucratic-centered (and highly narcisisstic) organizational “leadership” culture.

    Raises and additional positions for the select and priviledged “leadership” and cuts for those who actually do the real work. What great “leaders” huh!

    I see the future in education. As is already happening in the most dysfunctional district in CA (LA Unified).

    Individual schools breaking away by becoming independant charters and keeping their ADA in their schools and classrooms. This instead of letting these out of touch and outdated district bureaucracies squander 40% of the money and deliver garbage flawed decisions from their flawed “leadership”.

  27. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Michael: According to the story by Walnut Creek reporter Elisabeth Nardi: “The (Walnut Creek school district) raises are possible because the Walnut Creek district stockpiled its reserves, which, before the raises and compensation increases, hovered around 30 percent of its $23 million budget: $7 million. After the changes, Walnut Creek’s reserves are 28 percent of budget, much higher than the state’s recommended 3 percent, said Marcus Battle, the district’s chief business official.”
    Mt. Diablo, on the other hand, is struggling to meet its 2 percent reserve requirement through 2012-13.
    Here’s a story about the range of budget woes in East Bay schools:
    Wait a Minute: An Oakland charter middle school, which has extended school days, is seeing great results:

  28. Sue Berg Says:

    Charter New Course, You and other MDUSD critics remind me of the frustrations I experienced during my nine years as the district’s communications specialist. No matter the news or information I distributed, I could count on receiving at least a couple of comments challenging my veracity. I acknowledge that a few folks among the 24,000 families the district serves and the approx. 4,000 people it employs simply do not want to believe that Mt. Diablo is a good school district and use assorted blogs to say so.

    I know that my posting support for district staff and students on a blog is going to evoke complaints such as yours–and the Dr. J’s who’ve become so angry with the district leadership they can’t acknowledge the sincere dedication and hard work of school and district employees who definitely do put children first every day.

    Charter New Course, I post a comment saying that Mt. Diablo’s children deserve local support as much as WCSD students do. You respond by telling me why WCSD (based seemingly on what you see on its admittedly better website) is superior to MDUSD. If the $99 parcel tax had passed two years ago (or even a year ago if the Board had opted to try again rather than go for the bond), the district would be in similar position to its neighboring districts: having millions of dollars in discretionary revenue to allocate to student programs and classroom needs.

    As for the limitations of my perspective (Dent Center, Lafayette)–As a parent whose three children attended Lafayette schools I can say that they had both excellent teachers and mediocre ones, good experiences and some rather negative ones, and did not see Board members, the superintendent, or the high school principal in their classrooms. Based in MDUSD’s Dent Center for nearly a decade, I interacted with employees in all areas, parents of children at all grade levels, and community members with a variety of opinions about the district and public education.

    Do I see and know of problems in MDUSD? Of course. All organizations and businesses have them. I appreciate reading blog comments from those trying to get clarity on the issues, offering ideas, not just criticisms. Mt. Diablo employees serve a far more diverse community than nearby districts do and with countless positive results. Identifying and building on those positives is far more productive than compiling yet another list of complaints.

  29. charter new course Says:

    @ Sue –
    I believe your veracity for what you believe, but I completely disagree. MDUSD could be a great district but the Dent Center keeps making mistakes. The result is MDUSD has the highest proportion of low-performing schools in California! The information that we receive in the superintendent’s newsletters is they’re on the brink of receivership, becoming a Program Improvement district, they’re closing schools, increasing class sizes and cancelling school days. Regrettably you haven’t heard the bad news that we parents and our students hear ALL the time.

    We were fortunate to elect a board member with the knowledge and experience of Cheryl Hansen and what happened? Her plan to follow CBE best practices is voted down 4-1 in a “contentious” board meeting where other board members were openly dismissive toward her. If they want to build on positives, then they should play nice and start listening to Trustee Hansen.

  30. Doctor J Says:

    @Sue, in my opinion you are letting your personal like for these very nice people overcome your objectivity about the performance of the district: 10 PI schools in their 5th year, 6 of the worst schools in California, and the district on the verge of being named a Program Improvement District. I have said this many times, the MDUSD has the potential to be a GREAT district but the lack of a Strategic Plan prevents the unity that such a plan brings together. It will take synergy to rise from the ashes to greatness. Unfortunately, the Peter principle has overtaken quality.

  31. Sue Berg Says:

    Charter and Dr. J, I’m not saying MDUSD does not have problems nor that I don’t have good friends still working there. However, I don’t believe the district is as broken as you do. The distressing actions you cite–closing schools, increasing class sizes, instituting furlough days–are not unique. Districts throughout California have been taking those actions for more than a year now. I, like MDUSDParents on her blog, just wish people could acknowledge that there is (and long has been) good work going on in Mt. Diablo, even with draconian budget cuts. I would hope discussions about the district would, as I’ve said ad infinitum, include identifying and building on what’s working and leave off the broad-brushed complaints.

    The continued reference to the 10 “underperforming/program improvement” schools in the district is a case in point. With 50 schools and programs in MDUSD, there are at least 10 high performing schools worth mentioning. More important, most of the 10 “poor” performers have been making amazing strides academically. Unfortunately, the negative labels overshadow the full picture.

    I trust you know that there are currently three (3) different accountability programs that measure public school performance: California’s, the federal government’s, and President Obama’s Race To The Top initiative. Each has its own terminology, goals, rewards, and consequences. Each requires schools to meet not just a schoolwide performance goal, but ones for each of several subgroups (e.g., race, special needs, poverty level) as well.

    Each uses the California Standards Test administered in May to measure student achievement, but they do not share the same targets the schools must meet each year. California uses a growth model, requiring schools to improve student scores steadily from year to year. Schools that achieve an 800 schoolwide score on the Academic Performance Index (API) and show that all their subgroups are meeting standards are considered to be successful. Under the California program, many of the schools labeled as underperforming have been making great progress and are nearing the 800 and subgroup goals.

    However, the federal program sets new goals every few years. Its measure, called Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), allowed for schools to make steady progress toward an initial target, but after the first few years, raised the bar rather significantly. Thus, a “program improvement” school getting close to the original target found that it had to meet a new, higher one before its label could be removed. Approaching the new target, the school saw it raised again. From the outset of the federal program educators knew it would be difficult for struggling schools to meet these ever-increasing goals. Essentially, schools were initially told to get over the 5-foot high jump bar; as soon as they did, the bar was raised, not to 5.5 but to 7 feet and then to 9. And the performance of their subgroups had to improve accordingly.

    Race To The Top is after my time, so I’m not well versed in it and trust Theresa will clarify. However, I believe that just to qualify to apply for the funding, districts had to designate some of their schools as under- or worst-performing. I’ve heard the criteria for that designation is rather odd, with some schools that have high API rankings falling into the ‘underperforming” category.

    My point is that accountability has become so complicated it’s hard for even the most knowledgeable educator to explain succinctly the several programs that schools and districts must answer to these days. I’ve made the most cursory attempt here, mostly because I’m tired of hearing schools referred to by their labels as if they are mired in failure. A look beyond the label to the actual data, or even better, into the school itself, shows a different picture.

    Take Ygnacio Valley Elementary, for example. Consistently labeled “underperforming/program improvement,” that school has increased its state measure, the API, by 192 points since the accountability program began 10 years ago. Its API is now 753, approaching the 800 goal. And all its subgroups and its schoolwide measures meet the state targets. Similarly, other “underperformers” have made major improvements: Fair Oaks, 122 points to 731; Cambridge, 260 points to 727; Rio Vista, 176 points to 669; Shore Acres, 169 points to 659; Glenbrook, 141 points to 660; Riverview, 157 points to 672.

    The district is not ignoring the so-called underperforming schools or their students. Staff and parents at those schools deserve lots of credit for the work they’re doing. I’d love to see references to these schools go from finger-shaking to high fives for the progress being made.

  32. Jackie Says:

    Sorry Dr. J, your information is faulty. Linda Mayo could not come to our site last week, and Rose was accompanied by another board member ( or vice versa depending on your view) Part of Rose’s job is to get out to sites, not staying chained to a desk at Dent. And, as for essential standards, we teach all standards, not just the ones on the report card, or on the test. We are refining the standards because some have more impact, breadth and depth.

  33. Linda Says:

    I understand your point of view about wanting the complaints to be balanced with District accomplishments. By all accounts I am a complainer.

    I believe the lack of trust and confidence in the District makes it difficult to see beyond the negative and the lack of true leadership leaves us without someone to get behind, believe in, and follow.
    We can’t just say let’s be positive, it just doesn’t work that way. However, I do believe that the District has complete control to help turn this attitude around but to date they have resisted doing the hard work necessary to do so. Instead they make reactionary decisions, they whine, and they fight amongst each other. Then they get angry when we don’t have confidence in, or question, their decisions.

    I know there are people who think a strategic plan is frivolous in times like these but I say there is no time when a plan is needed more. We need a leader who stands up and says to the community, “I hear you. I agree we have problems. This isn’t all about the budget and if we come together we can make a difference for the kids in our community. Here is our plan, we can’t to it all right now but our kids need us to do as much as we can and that means that we all need to work together.”
    And then I want to hear the plan. And I want to hear it at every interim budget presentation. I want to hear it when budget cut lists are presented. I want to hear it when the Superintendent says welcome back to school in September.
    I can promise you I would be on board, I would be forgiving of setbacks.
    The problem is that right now we get justification, excuses, blame,…. and no plan for change.
    This Superintendent has never approached his job from that vantage point. He begrudgingly communicates with parents and has no interest in a comprehensive strategic plan that includes input and buy-in from all stakeholders. Just as you think it would be nice if those of us who complain would mention what is good, I would like to hear the District tell us what they plan to do to improve what we have. We truly don’t complain for no reason.

  34. Exhausted Parent Says:

    Let’s get this straight: THE TEACHERS VOTED AWAY THEIR OWN MEDICAL BENEFITS. No one made them, no one twisted their arms.

    I am a stay at home parent, and even I could see that medical costs were going through the roof. I spoke to several of the teachers at my child’s school, and all of them were so excited to have more money in their paychecks, they would “find benefits elsewhere for much less.” Right.

    The district isn’t required to stop supposedly educated adults from making an insane decision. THE TEACHERS DID THIS TO THEMSELVES. To think otherwise is to be either disingenuous or obtuse.

    For those who have joined the district since then, you knew what you were getting into when you signed your contract. No medical.

    However, teachers did get some money towards medical recently, but did not get a corresponding cut in pay. How nice – a raise for teachers!

    Did your custodian or office manager get a raise? No. But because of cuts at the district level, more work is piled onto the site clerical workers. Oh, and their hours and days have already been cut – office managers cut the equivalent of 26-1/2 days, secretaries cut the equivalent of 22 days.

    And some teachers are whining about three furlough days? Boo damn hoo.

  35. Wait a Minute Says:


    Steve Lawrence will NEVER approach his job from that vantage point you mentioned.

    Let us not forget that Steve Lawrence had a scathing CC Times editorial blasting his lack of ethics when he chose to meet representatives from Chevron at his house, at a bar and on the golf course to discuss a no-bid contract on the largest school district solar project in the US.

    My point is that you will never get out of the hole with this guy running things. he is beyond damaged goods and needs to be replaced along with some others in order to even start getting back the publics’ trust.

    There are many good people in the MDUSD, but they are being constrained by the lack of leadership (caused by only some, but key leaders) at the district level.

    Cheryl Hansen spells this dilemma out on her website:


    · Not having administrative leadership competent, credible, or committed enough to carry out the board’s strategic charges.”…..!

  36. Doctor J Says:

    @Sue, I have acknowledged the hard working teachers who love to help children learn and be successful. My complaints are about the lack of honesty and transparency by some administrators and board members. There are way too many shell games, way too many bait and switches. One simple example: the approval on May 11 of the reoganization of C&I into SASS on the Supt’s promise that the new department would be smaller and save nearly $50,000. Indeed in August he announced it had saved $50,000. That really wasn’t true. Then ever since then, he has worked to increase the size of the department — Tuesday there is proposed another new position. This is why voters and taxpayers lack confidence in the financial management of MDUSD.

  37. MD teacher Says:

    exhausted parent,
    You should understand that most of the teachers who voted away these benefits are now long gone. Now the idea is to catch the district up to the surrounding ones so we can attract quality teachers and keep them. When given a choice, why would anyone come here seeing that the compensation package is smaller than in most other places?

    You’re right though. The teachers did vote away these benefits. But 10 years later, that’s not even the point, and pointing the finger won’t help anyone now.

  38. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Regarding transparency, Hansen appears to be the only board member who wants the superintendent to show how the district is saving $1.5 million through the school closures and other recommendations approved Feb. 22.
    Also, the ideas brought up by Gary Eberhart don’t appear to be on the new cut list. And, the list of employees working on post-retirement contracts is still missing.
    Finally, there’s not agreement between the budget cuts agenda item and and the bond measure agenda item regarding whether the second interim report will be “qualified” or “postive.”

  39. i pay my own way Says:

    MD Teacher It appears you need to work on your comprehension. exhausted parent said in her comment that the NEW teachers knew what they were signing up for they took the deal now they are whinning about what they agreed to. NO medical and higher wages take it or leave it. They knew full well what they were getting to put the blame on ten years or more ago is ridiculous. Your pointing the finger. public school teachers are overpriced babysitters. Their are very few good teachers in public school very very few. Privateand Charter schools are way better the the public school system. Hey teachers the union is screwing you get a clue and fight the unions if you really want to help the kids. If you just want to pick up and easy paycheck blame everyone else

  40. i pay my own way Says:

    the private sector has taken pay cuts of 20-40 percent over the last two years. All governemet employees should be taking a 20 percent at least pay cut. Let call it what it is greedy people wanting more money for themselves and to hell with the kids or anyone else. Let me quote a teacher ” why should i take less money to teach your bratty kids” Unfortuantly that is the attitude of most public school teachers. Show you really care about the kids and take the cut or pay your own medical. Teachers put your money where your mouth is. If its really about the kids give till it hurts

  41. Doctor J Says:

    Is Gary grandstanding or has he lost control when just last week he states:
    1. Immediate freeze on all overnight travel and it doesn’t show up on the agenda this week.
    2. No more site administrator meetings off campus and it doesn’t show up on the agenda and one is scheduled for this Wednesday.
    3. How many times does Cheryl Hansen have to ask for a public accounting of the “double dippers” ?
    4. What happens if MDEA membership does not approve the proposed contract ?

  42. Theresa Harrington Says:

    It appears the superintendent did not believe it was necessary to identify new proposed cuts at this time, since he is recommending the board approve cuts that were already on the list and is also assuming negotiated cuts will be implemented. The board also intends to spend $24,000 on a “fact-finding” contract.
    If the teachers’ union doesn’t approve the tentative agreement, the district likely won’t get the three furlough days it is counting on this year, meaning more cuts would be necessary if the tax extensions fail or don’t make it on the ballot.

  43. charter new course Says:

    @ I Pay My Own Way,
    I must disagree with you too. At our schools I estimate at least 80-90% of our teachers are “good” and my students are learning in their classes. I credit our site administrators and teachers, and not the Dent Center. One example is the Dent Center should be doing more for technology education, science, engineering and math in EVERY school. Teachers have the option to convert to a charter school if they want to receive more funding

  44. Linda Says:


    Are you saying that the Superintendent is not including Gary’s items because he has “enough” cuts to meet the budget? I have a problem if that is the case. During this kind of budget crisis travel expenses and offsite meetings should have been long gone. If they don’t need the extra savings then bring back something for the kids or start a reserve, but that kind of business as usual has to be curtailed.

    What is the $24,000 fact-finding mission?

    Can the information that Cheryl Hansen wants be obtained through the public records act? Do we have a Superintendent withholding information from the Board? Why isn’t Gary up in arms, he would be if this was McHenry? I suspect the list, and the costs, starting with $10mil from Measure C funds for Pederson’s group is not going to reflect well on the District. How does it work that the language for Measure C specifically states no administrative salaries and then in a matter of semantics the District turns around and spends it on administrative salaries. I understand why… it reduces the amount coming out of the General Fund but then why lie to the voters? TRUST? CONFIDENCE?

  45. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Linda, Of course, I can’t speak for the superintendent. However, he told me he didn’t expect to go through the cut list and ask trustees to vote item by item (as has been done in the past). Instead, he wants to just submit the entire list as sort of a backup plan, in case the tax extensions fail or don’t make it on the ballot.
    Yet, I thought Gary Eberhart said March 1 that he wanted the list early so trustees could prioritize it. If they don’t vote item by item and don’t prioritize it, it will be harder to implement it quickly if they have to. Bill Clark, the COE CFO, told me he’ll ask districts to start implementing the cuts if the tax extensions don’t make it on the ballot.
    The “fact-finding” mission is for negotiations with the other three unions, which are at impasse. Each side presents its facts to a neutral party.
    Regarding Measure C funds spent on administrators, Pete Pedersen told the board it would be cheaper to hire a staff to oversee the project, rather than hire outside construction managers.
    Julie Braun-Martin told the board on March 1 that there are 11 employees on post-retirement contracts and Rose Lock said two of them help with testing. Yes, I could do a Public Records Act request, if necessary. But since Lawrence promised to bring it to the board, I assumed he would follow through on that.

  46. Doctor J Says:

    I am still waiting to hear how many administrators are being flow down to the SIG conference at LAX and spending a night or two the first week in April. Theresa, got any info ?

  47. Doctor J Says:

    I think someone needs to start a “Golden Fleece” award in MDUSD for unwise use of taxpayer’s dollars — whether it be general fund or categorical grant money. Remember the late Sen. Wm. Proximire and his “Golden Fleece” awards.

  48. Theresa Harrington Says:

    For those interested in charter schools, the COE will hold a public hearing Wednesday regarding the Alvarado Unity HS Charter that was denied in the West Contra Costa USD:

  49. Theresa Harrington Says:

    A change order on Tuesday’s agenda says the new classrooms at CPHS and CHS are being paid for with Prop. 55 funds:
    Yet, the last bond issuance of $11 million listed these classrooms among projects it would pay for.
    And another item on the agenda says the classrooms have already been completed:
    It looks like the board is being asked to approve the change order after the fact.
    Also, the board is being asked to approve $55,000 more for Measure C solar engineering:
    And the total fact-finding contract is actually $40,000 ($24,000 for Local 1 and $16,000 for CSEA):
    The staff report says the district entered into the Fact-Finding contract on Nov. 22 and agreed to pay consultants $95 to $255 per hour plus expenses. However, the bill doesn’t include any itemized accounting for how the money was spent:
    Also, an independent services contract for MDHS the board is expected to approve Tuesday includes an effective date of Feb. 15. The consultant’s proposal, however, was dated Nov. 16 for services to be rendered from October, 2010 through June 30, 2011:

  50. Doctor J Says:

    Intersting that neither change order is attached for review. As for the solar engineering, the original contract was for a “not to exceed” $33,000 and now its being increased by $55,000 to a total of $88,000 !! No justification attached for nearly tripling the contract. What happened to “not to exceed” ?? As for the fact finding consultant — isn’t that what we pay Rolen for ? Something is rotten in Denmark.

  51. 4Students Says:

    Is it possible that these Prop 55 SMART classrooms are different from the Measure C classrooms? Do those high schools need many more extra classrooms? Or is it possible that we’ll pay twice for the same classrooms?

  52. Theresa Harrington Says:

    It’s possible that Measure C is paying for the administration, since the staff reports have Pete Pedersen’s name on them.
    Also, Lawrence called Pedersen up to talk about the proposed budget reductions in Maintenance and Operations, even though Pedersen is no longer supposed to be overseeing that dept.
    It appears that he may be involved in more than just Measure C oversight.

  53. Exhausted Parent Says:

    MD teacher,

    I know very well that many of the teachers who wanted more paycheck/no benefits are gone now. So? How is that the problem of the rest of the staff workers, who were wise enough to keep their benefits? Why do they have to suffer for the short-sighted behavior of the supposedly most-educated of the employees?

    Again, those who signed contracts since then knew what they were getting into. I have no pity for them, either. Walk into a job, then whine you can’t whave what you want? Grow up.

    Despite the lack of benefits, we’re still getting excellent teachers who want to work here. I get to meet them in my volunteer capacity, and they are wonderful people who still feel that children come first. They understand that this isn’t a job you take because you are interested in living large.

    The reason I get utterly incensed by this topic is that I see folks who, like post #22 above, keep bringing it up. The misinformation ticks me off no end. I won’t let such lies go unaddressed.

    The district does plenty of ridiculous things. Voting away benefits isn’t one of them – that’s all on the MDEA members. Let’s place blame where it belongs.

  54. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The superintendent’s budget recommendations include the assumption of more than $6.8 million savings THIS school year from three furlough days, a cap on health benefits and prorated benefits for part-time employees. Do you think it is wise for the board to approve a budget that includes these assumptions?

  55. Doctor J Says:

    I know MDEA approved the 3 furlough days — did they approve the cap on health benefits and prorated benefits for part time employees ?

  56. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The benefits cap and pro-ration are proposed for the other unions, which are at impasse. Lawrence also proposes building in seven furlough days for all employees in 2011-12 and 12-13, which need to be negotiated.
    Previously, CFO Bryan Richards said he didn’t include these items in the budget because they hadn’t been voted on by the union or approved by the board. Now, Lawrence appears to be willing to assume the district can build them into the budget.

  57. Anon Says:

    MD Teacher and Susan Townsend:


    Any new teachers joining MDUSD knew what they were getting into.

    It’s teachers like you who contribute to the lack of community support. I *do* support many of our teachers as individuals, but I do *NOT* support MDEA. I also find it extremely difficult to support teachers like you — who take no accountability for their own vote and who also misrepresent the situation with health coverage (it was the teachers own decision). Shame on you.

  58. Glen Boscacci Says:

    I find it fascinating that some comment on a teachers salary with no knowledge. I believe this constitutes at least some form of ignorance. It has been years since we have had any sort of raise and in the meantime inflation has eaten up my paycheck to the tune of 20%. This district has never bargained in good faith and hires more people for the Dent Center even as they close schools and ask for furlough days.In my 23 years as a teacher, the administration of MDUSD has alway been on the verge of ineptness. We are rapidly becoming Texas as we only teach to the test. We can find money to purchase Curriculum Associates and Lexia programs for reading, even as we whittle down the school year. I gaurantee you this: MDUSD teacher will be asked to to do even more… One last comment: I work approx. 60 hours per week, and my wife works another 20 hours per week in my room for nada…

  59. sam munck Says:

    I read several of the entries and find all of you intelligent and sincerely dedicated. I think it is important to remember the history of our journey. Endless effort has been contributed to the understanding that intelligent and informed voters are the basis of a strong and righteous civilization. The education of our children is not just a luxury but a necesssity. Our very existence depends on the creation of a population that matures and guides themselves in a responsible manner.

    As Sue Berg mentioned above, the grand citizens of the MDUSD have short-sightedly voted to save their $98 and either hoped the problem would go away or see no value in education. It’s a good deal for them, but a bad deal for the teachers, students, and related staff. They saved $98, and the district in turn intends to unfairly tax the teachers and staff $1,500 each. The families of MDUSD, numbering in the mid-twenty thousands, pay nothing while the 1,600 teachers and their families write a check for the total.

    When times were flush and 25 yr olds were making millions, the teachers of the MDUSD were busy giving away their benefits, with zealous and crafted betrail by the District. The teachers of MDUSD never saw a raise or received their hard-earned COLA’s during this grand golden era. Teacher have been notoriously underpaid. Now that times have become stressful, who does everybody expect to dig even deeper? The Teachers. Sorry, Teachers are all dapped out. If everyone wanted the Teachers to bail them out after their run at speculation….they should have paid them better.

    The District has a responsibility to show good faith. I feel that one of the previous writers has a good idea. With the districts earnest “search for fiscal stability” … Let’s chop from the top. Let’s put our money where our mouth is. If the community is serious about improving things, then they must go to the polls and support the process.

    The exhausted parent in #53 should cut a check too.


  60. Exhausted Parent Says:

    You want me to cut a check, Sam, when I’ve already “paid” by having a month cut from my time? I wasn’t among the people who voted away benefits. My union understood that a bit smaller paycheck meant keeping decent benefits. Why should I pay for other people’s short-sighted behavior? Teachers got what they voted for – that’s not my fault. No one has received COLA or a raise, it’s not just the teachers. The martyr card just won’t play at this card game.

  61. Susan Townsend Says:

    Interesting that because I’m advocating for MDUSD teachers you assumed I am one. You are wrong. I use my real name and I was a student in MDUSD, own a home in the district, and my child now attends Northgate High School. Every teacher I ever had, or my children ever had, in MDUSD has been an inspiration. They work 60 hour weeks, attend professional development in the summers, grade papers at soccer games for their own children, pay for their family’s medical benefits out of their paychecks, have no social security benefits, no perks, no bonuses, no company vehicles, no expense accounts, no paid time off, no personal days, and only 30 minute lunch breaks. They prepare their classrooms for weeks in August (unpaid), spend hundreds of dollars on their classrooms, call parents, grade papers and plan lessons at home. I respect teachers and realize that if they used their level of education in any other field they would earn double the salary they earn. I also want our children to be taught by people with self respect which is why I understand teachers who are standing up for the teaching profession and themselves by voting NO on this tentative agreement full concessions that will impact children for years and years to come. Who will teach, when teachers are not respected and valued by society?
    MDUSD has not cut money spent at the top, on consultants, lawyers, administrators, or any of the 6-digit positions. This needs to happen first, before asking teachers to give AGAIN.

  62. Sue Berg Says:

    Susan Townsend, I applaud your advocating for MDUSD teachers. I’m just sorry that you seem to think other district employees do not work as hard or as long, do not contribute to family medical benefits, have not suffered any cutbacks or hardships, and have a variety of perks teachers do not.

    These budget cuts have hit everyone in the district; only those who are still working through the step-and-column salary grid have had any salary increase (OK, Dr. J’s “Gang of 5” excepted). As one school office manager pointed out, support staff at the sites have had their work day and year (and thus their salary) decreased–and this without the furlough days the district is asking of them. Everyone in the district’s management group (district administrators, principals, and all other administrators at the school sites) started taking furlough days (and thus pay cuts) last school year.

    At the Dent Center both management and support positions have been eliminated, with more being proposed. The associate superintendent position (overseeing the district’s education programs) and one assistant superintendent (overseeing district operations) position have been cut, with Asst. Supt. Rose Lock taking on the ed. programs and General Counsel Greg Rolen adding oversight of maintenance and facilities. Off the top of my head, I count six fewer director positions: purchasing, M&O, special education, research & evaluation, alternative ed, one of the two in Personnel, and the internal auditor. Mine and other positions supporting district administrators are also gone. I believe at least one director position was cut in fiscal services when Brian Richards was promoted to CFO. The legal department has expanded, but we’ve been told there are still savings being made. I can’t speak to that.

    Sam Munck, teachers and all employee units received a 10 percent increase during the heady dot-com days you mention. Then came the crash that hurt us all. As for the benefits-on-the-salary-schedule issue, that was an initiative CTA was promoting in districts throughout the state at the time. I worked in Hayward USD then and came to MDUSD soon after. Hayward’s teachers union negotiated the change and all the other units there followed suit. (Not so, as you know, in MDUSD.) The change increased the salary on which retirement benefits are based, which made it attractive to veteran teachers. MDUSD Board members and senior administrators publicly and privately expressed concern about how the change would affect young teachers but they could not reject it because a majority of MDEA members had voted to include it in the agreement that their team had negotiated.

    Susan, Sam, and Glen Boscacci, it’s good to see your support for teachers. I just need to point out that other district employees (and former employees) have made sacrifices, too. Are there solutions to the budget crisis that will allow the employees who are left after all these cuts to keep their jobs?

  63. Doctor J Says:

    @Sue, please don’t forget that Supt Lawrence is getting about $50,000 more than the previous Supt Dick Nichol, plus a $75,000 signing bonus. yes, I know that Dick was just “interim” but he served more than one year ! I would also call that a ‘raise’.

  64. Sue Berg Says:

    Dr. J, My point is simply that employees in all areas of the district, including many “at the top,” have seen their job eliminated or their hours (and, thus, salaries) reduced. No one employee group has corned the market on hardship.

    I’ve heard that Dr. Lawrence is earning more than his two predecessors, but that’s a different issue than the one I responded to. I know there are fewer senior and other district-level administrators than there were two years ago, so cuts have been made at the Dent Center. I do not know if any of the savings from those cuts have gone into raises for the current leadership team.

    At this point it’s hard to know how much has been cut and where, though perhaps there’s an accounting I’ve just not seen. My comment was only to point out that the cuts and hardship have been across the district.

  65. Doctor J Says:

    Sue, the hardship has been borne mostly by the support staff — and now by young teachers. Furlough days impact the lower paid employees more because one day’s pay is much more on their take home pay. I would rather have seen all employee earning over $150,000 taking a 20% cut and those earning over $100,000 taking a 15% cut.

  66. Susan Says:

    Sue Berg – I never compared teachers with other district employees. Read my post more clearly please. I respect the other units; Local 1 CST, M & O and CSEA. I know they work incredibly hard and that is why I feel teachers should vote NO on this tentative agreement and support them, as they are at impasse with MDUSD. I do not think any person working in MDUSD should be paid $250,000 though, and I maintain that if no employee in the district earned more than the highest teacher salary, there would not be a need for furlough days which hurt students and teachers alike.

  67. Glen Boscacci Says:

    Free association- Herein lies the problem, from one point-of-view: The district seems to have $$ for Curriculum Associates,a new payroll manager, Lexia, and curriculum specialists. There is no curriculum in this district, as all we do is teach to the test; therefore we no longer need curriculum specialists. Our union had already agreed to three furlough days in may, before its members had voted on the tentative contract. Why is the STAR test relevant any longer, as we are eventually going to switch over to national standards? Does anyone, (either parent or administrator) realize MDUSD employess are completely demoralized? This district is a mess and as far as I’m concerned, a state takeover couldn’t possibly be any worse than the current administrators.

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